Enterprise

Andy Jassy overruled AWS recommendation a senior exec be fired for discrimination, sources say

The parameters of the case involving AWS' Joshua Burgin are similar to other ones filed by current and former AWS executives. But in this instance, it went straight to the top.

Andy Jassy

Andy Jassy allegedly prevented Joshua Burgin's firing.

Photo: F. Carter Smith/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Amazon CEO Andy Jassy intervened to prevent the firing of a top executive after an internal HR report recommended his termination following claims of discriminatory behavior within AWS, two sources familiar with the matter told Protocol.

According to the sources, a Black female AWS employee told HR in 2019 that Joshua Burgin had made what she believed were discriminatory comments to her. At the time, Burgin was chief of staff to AWS engineering legend and senior leadership team member Charlie Bell. An internal AWS team investigated the allegations and recommended in a report that Burgin be fired, the sources said.

The sources said that a group of senior Amazon executives — including HR Vice President Ian Wilson, HR Senior Vice President Beth Galetti and Bell himself — met to discuss the report about Burgin. During that meeting, the sources said, those executives decided to meet with Jassy, who was then CEO of AWS, before making a final decision on Burgin's fate.

But that meeting with Jassy never happened, the sources said. Instead, they said, Bell had a private conversation with Jassy and urged him to intervene to prevent Burgin's termination. The sources said it was ultimately Jassy who made the decision to keep Burgin. He remained at the company, becoming general manager of AWS Outposts in June 2020.

Neither Burgin nor Bell, who left Amazon in August, responded to requests for comment.

Presented with a detailed account of the the events described here, Amazon did not dispute any of the facts, responding instead with an emailed statement: "We take all allegations of discrimination seriously and investigate them fully. In this instance, we conducted a thorough investigation and took what we believe was the appropriate corrective action." The company declined to disclose what corrective action was taken.

Famed women's rights attorney Gloria Allred is now representing the employee involved in the Burgin case, sources previously told Protocol. Allred, who was also presented with a detailed account of the events, declined to comment.

The revelation is evidence that in at least one case, top AWS executives sidelined a team tasked with conducting internal probes into allegations of misbehavior. It's also further evidence of claims made by employees that the process to review such reports is not "fair, objective or transparent," according to a petition signed by hundreds of employees.

The parameters of the case are similar to other ones filed by current and former AWS executives. For example, Charlotte Newman, who remains employed by Amazon, alleged in her own suit a culture of discrimination rooted in both sexism and racism. Amazon is now facing several lawsuits over alleged discrimination and sexual harassment at AWS.

The company solicited Oppenheimer Investigations Group to conduct an internal probe into employee complaints over the process to report such claims, sources previously told Protocol.

Jassy became CEO of Amazon in July after founder Jeff Bezos announced plans to transition into an executive chairman role in January. AWS is now run by Adam Selipsky, who was a longtime sales executive during the early days of the cloud pioneer's ascent into one of the most powerful companies in enterprise tech before leaving to become CEO of Tableau.

Update 9/2: Although, as noted, Amazon did not dispute any of the facts in this article before publication, the company provided an additional statement on Thursday in which it said the following: "The suggestion that Andy overruled a recommendation provided to him in this case is not correct. As with any disciplinary decision, as more data was presented and discussions continued, opinions on the appropriate course of action evolved. The final recommendation was the one ultimately pursued." A company spokesperson declined to answer follow-up questions on the record.

Workplace

He couldn’t go to the cabin, so he brought the cabin to his cubicle

"Building forts” has long been a passion of Lucas Mundt's. Now, his employer plans to give out $200 stipends for cubicle decor.

Lucas Mundt scoured Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace to complete his masterpiece.

Photo: Mike Beckham

It took a little work to get viral cubicle-decorator Lucas Mundt on the phone. On Monday, he was taking a half-day to help a friend fix his laminate floor. Tuesday, I caught him in the middle of an officewide Pop-A-Shot basketball tournament. His employer, the Oklahoma water bottle-maker Simple Modern, was getting rid of the arcade-style hoops game, and “glorious prizes and accolades” were on the line, Mundt said. (CEO Mike Beckham was eliminated in the first round, I heard from a source.)

Why did I want to talk with Mundt? His cubicle astonished nearly 300,000 Twitter users this week after Beckham tweeted out photos of it converted into what can only be described as a lakeside cabin motif. Using leftover laminate flooring that he found on Facebook Marketplace, Mundt created the appearance of a hardwood floor, and he carefully applied contact paper to give his cubicle walls, desk and file cabinet the look of a cozy cabin. The space heater that looks like a wood stove? Purely decorative: Mundt runs hot. The two fake mounted animal heads? They’re “kind of ironic,” said Mundt, who’s never gone hunting.

Keep Reading Show less
Allison Levitsky
Allison Levitsky is a reporter at Protocol covering workplace issues in tech. She previously covered big tech companies and the tech workforce for the Silicon Valley Business Journal. Allison grew up in the Bay Area and graduated from UC Berkeley.

COVID-19 accelerated what many CEOs and CTOs have struggled to do for the past decade: It forced organizations to be agile and adjust quickly to change. For all the talk about digital transformation over the past decade, when push came to shove, many organizations realized they had made far less progress than they thought.

Now with the genie of rapid change out of the bottle, we will never go back to accepting slow and steady progress from our organizations. To survive and thrive in times of disruption, you need to build a resilient, adaptable business with systems and processes that will keep you nimble for years to come. An essential part of business agility is responding to change by quickly developing new applications and adapting old ones. IT faces an unprecedented demand for new applications. According to IDC, by 2023, more than 500 million digital applications and services will be developed and deployed — the same number of apps that were developed in the last 40 years.[1]

Keep Reading Show less
Denise Broady, CMO, Appian
Denise oversees the Marketing and Communications organization where she is responsible for accelerating the marketing strategy and brand recognition across the globe. Denise has over 24+ years of experience as a change agent scaling businesses from startups, turnarounds and complex software companies. Prior to Appian, Denise worked at SAP, WorkForce Software, TopTier and Clarkston Group. She is also a two-time published author of “GRC for Dummies” and “Driven to Perform.” Denise holds a double degree in marketing and production and operations from Virginia Tech.
Fintech

Ripple’s CEO won’t apologize for taking on the SEC

“The SEC declared war on Ripple. We’re defending ourselves.”

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse isn’t apologizing for his company’s pugnacious stance with regulators.

Photo: Ripple

Ripple just bought back a huge chunk of its shares this week, which CEO Brad Garlinghouse touted as a sign of the crypto company’s momentum.

But he also used the opportunity to hit back at the agency that the crypto powerhouse considers its nemesis: the SEC.

Keep Reading Show less
Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers crypto and fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

The Twitter account Elon Musk would pay to delete

‘I’ve put a lot of work into it, and $5k is just really not enough.’

Elon Musk considers the Twitter account a security risk.

Photoillustration: Brendan Smialowski/AFP and Getty Images Plus; Protocol

“Can you take this down? It is a security risk.”

That’s how Elon Musk opened a conversation with 19-year-old Jack Sweeney over Twitter DM last fall. He was referencing a Twitter account, called @ElonJet, which tracks the movements of his private jet around the world.

Keep Reading Show less
Veronica Irwin

Veronica Irwin (@vronirwin) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering breaking news. Previously she was at the San Francisco Examiner, covering tech from a hyper-local angle. Before that, her byline was featured in SF Weekly, The Nation, Techworker, Ms. Magazine and The Frisc.

Enterprise

Intel must spend $100B in Ohio now to avoid spending more later

Forget the politics. Here’s why Intel’s new factories in Ohio are crucial to the company’s future and its hope of regaining the chip manufacturing leadership spot.

Intel is doubling down on its own contract manufacturing business for fabless chipmakers.

Photo: Walden Kirsch/Intel Corporation

Intel’s plans to invest up to $100 billion in a new group of chip factories outside Columbus, Ohio, will have a much greater impact on the future of its manufacturing division compared to any short-term political or supply-chain concerns it might solve.

To hear President Joe Biden, U.S. Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo and Ohio Governor Mike DeWine tell it, the new factories — known as fabs in this world — are going to help fix inflation, make the U.S. more competitive, drive down the soaring cost of cars, ease the chip supply-chain shocks and improve U.S. national security. That’s a lot, even for one of the biggest projects in Intel’s storied history. It will be years before that capacity comes online, and whether a new chip factory in Ohio could actually solve any or all of those issues is debatable.

Keep Reading Show less
Max A. Cherney

Max A. Cherney is a Technology Reporter at Protocol covering the semiconductor industry. He has worked for Barron's magazine as a Technology Reporter, and its sister site MarketWatch. He is based in San Francisco.

Latest Stories
Bulletins